Overcoming the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic by investing locally; countering the effects of climate change by implementing strategies to mitigate territorial risks at the local level; adopting green and carbon neutral strategies to reduce pollutant emissions: CAP Group, the water utility of the Metropolitan City of Milan, focuses on ESG factors (environment, social, governance) to address the challenges of the present and develop the territory where it operates. ESG factors are in the DNA of a company like CAP Group. This is clearly demonstrated by the data from its 2019 Sustainability Report. According to the Non-Financial Statement (DNF) 2019, the Lombard mono-utility invested 107 million euros in infrastructure,12 million more than in 2018 and distributed an economic value of over 277 million euros to stakeholders, an increase of 7% compared to the previous year. These results were achieved thanks to the path outlined by the Sustainability Plan of 2019 that guides the company in effectively addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges that will arise in the coming years. In defining itself a "Sensitive”, “Resilient” and “Innovative” company - the three pillars of CAP's sustainability strategy - the utility of the Metropolitan City of Milan has put a green deal at the centre of its industrial plan, with the deal based on dialogue and stakeholder participation, digitisation and the circular economy.
After the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, sustainability, in this case in the form of massive green investments, has been indicated by many as the main way to overcome the enormous negative economic impacts triggered by the spread of the virus. For a company such as CAP which is strongly connected to its territory, addressing recovery means reopening worksites, making investments in technologies and systems, putting an emphasis on research and innovation. Doing all this means working on the possible and sustainable conditions of the water industry in the coming decades. And non-financial reporting plays a fundamental role: an industrial plan cannot be built without the territory, without it being an integral part of a company's strategy.
Divided into nine areas on the basis of the strategy contained in the sustainability plan, the 2019 Non-Financial Statement analytically addresses all the ESG issues.
As the first company in Italy to adopt the Water Safety Plan (WSP), in 2019 CAP Group extended it to reach eight new aqueduct systems (SAC) of the Metropolitan city. This allowed the Group to rationalise controls on the one hand by investigating increasingly specific parameters, and on the other by increasing the number of samples, reaching 28,705, 11% more than in 2018. At the same time, the campaign to replace obsolete meters continued, leading to the installation of 45,000 new units. The water utility has also focused on reducing water leaks: in 2019 it monitored 2,240 km of aqueduct network, 9% more than the previous year, out of a total 6,442 km of infrastructure, allowing the identification of over 580 hidden leaks. The decision to promote the use of treated water for non-domestic use, to be used in particular in the industrial and agricultural sector, resulted in +34.32% of reused water, compared to the total volume of water treated (over 100 million cubic metres), reaching +54% compared to the previous year.
Still in the environmental field, the goal set by CAP for 2033 is to increase drained water in the managed territories by 60%. 2019 saw an investment of over 10 million euros for the mapping and modelling of the sewer network in order to optimally manage water and hydrogeological risk, and a further investment of 28.9 million euros to increase the resilience of sewage infrastructure.
The most important project launched in 2019 was the industrial symbiosis of the Sesto San Giovanni Bioplatform, which involves the transformation of the Sesto San Giovanni waste-to-energy plant and the adjacent treatment plant into a Bioplatform dedicated to the circular economy. The plant will be carbon neutral (with zero CO2 emissions), and able to use treatment sludge and the wet fraction of waste to produce biomethane, clean energy and eco-fertilisers.
In the Bresso treatment plant, CAP Group instead inaugurated the first Italian biomethane plant connected to the SNAM network, whose biofuel is mainly destined for the road haulage sector. Thanks to industrial-scale production logic, in 2019 the company introduced 325,339 standard cubic metres of biomethane into the network.
Another CAP Group priority is being as close as possible to the needs of the community. In 2019, over 870,000 euros were allocated to the supplementary water bonus to help those citizens most in need. While over 11,000 bills have been divided into instalments, totalling just under 10 million euros. Alongside technological innovation and research, CAP Group has long promoted projects to raise awareness of the value of tap water, with edutainment initiatives in schools or in sports (Values on the Pitch). CAP's goal is quite ambitious: to triple the number of CAP users who claim to drink only, or almost only, tap water, until reaching 70% of users in 2033. In 2019, 7,462 students and 722 teachers were involved in multiple environmental education activities under the banner of a culture based on the conscious use of our blue gold. In addition, CAP has also launched the Fonte San Rubinetto campaign aimed at all consumers and developed through a roadshow in the shopping centres of the Metropolitan City of Milan.
The CAP Group recognises its human capital as one of the fundamental pillars for the growth and development of the company. The Group counts on 868 men and women who work every day to ensure an efficient and attentive service, an increase of 3% compared to 2018. This requires continuous, cross-cutting staff training: in 2019, 34,000 hours were devoted in particular to sustainability and safety, 48% more than in 2018, a theme to which 39% of all the training programmes was dedicated.
On the governance front, CAP aims to transform its offer to customers into an entirely digital and personalised service with online billing, paperless contracts that can be managed remotely, and a new interactive call centre. In 2019, 48,391 users subscribed to online billing, 32% more than the previous year.
Having an increasingly smart network and systems means focusing on innovation in production processes. 2019 CAP implemented cybersecurity devices installed on half of the sensors and tools for remote controls, used to digitise networks and systems. Together with technological innovation, research is the other driver for the development of the Lombard manager's industrial governance. In this sense, the exchange of skills and technologies becomes a fundamental strategic theme for CAP Group, which has one of the most important and active centres for scientific experimentation in the sector with its Salazzurra research centre. This experience has given rise to important industrial symbiosis projects developed precisely in 2019: from collaboration with Danone, which provides for the use of organic waste such as expired yoghurt, to power plants for the production of biogas, to collaboration with FITT, an Italian multinational active in the production of PVC pipes for research and testing on materials recovered from treatment sludge. Together with Novamont, CAP instead dealt with the experimental evaluation of the use of waste cellulose, recovered from urban waste water.
The Group has also launched numerous research projects with universities, research bodies, foundations and other industrial entities in order to promote innovation in water service management. The H2020 Digital Water City project deserves mention, which was coordinated by the Berlin Water Competence Centre (KWB– Kompetenzzentrum Wasser Berlin) and composed of 24 partners from 10 European countries. It envisages the development of digital solutions to address elements of the integrated water cycle in five urban centres: Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Milan and Sofia. In Milan, the testing site is precisely the Peschiera Borromeo purification plant of CAP Group, which has won five million euros in funding to invest in research.
We discussed this with Chairman Alessandro Russo and General Manager Michele Falcone; Marco Dettori, President of ANCE Milan Lodi Monza e Brianza (National Association of Construction Manufacturers); Maria Luisa Parmigiani, Director of Unipol Sustainability and President of CSR Manager Network; Rossella Sobrero, President of FERPI (Italian Public Relations Federation) and Luca Testoni, Director of EticaNews. Click here to see the video of the event.